Posts Tagged: HelloGiggles

Creative Ladies: Erin Mallory Long

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Erin Mallory Long is the woman behind the hilarious HelloGiggles column Five Ways Something Ruined My Life, where she writes about things we all know and love, like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Groundhog Day, and Friends Thanksgiving episodes. She was nice enough to answer my nosy questions about her work process, her inspirations, and her Creative Lady role model. You can find Erin at her website and on Twitter @erinmallorylong.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I usually work in TV but am between jobs right now which is the fancy way of saying unemployed but spending my days writing. I don’t get paid for ALL the writing I do but I’m focusing on changing that and being grateful that I can get by without going to an office every day for the time being. A normal day for me right now is getting up, having tea and cereal with my husband before he goes to work, then staying in the apartment all day with my To Do list or going to Starbucks to try to bang some stuff out. My weekly column on Hello Giggles – since it’s just about my obsessions with TV or movies – is something that I can get done while sitting at Starbucks and is pretty easy to focus on there. Sometimes if I’m working on a script I’d rather be surrounded by my stuff in my own space.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

I like going on hikes now that I live in Los Angeles. If I’m stuck on something it usually helps to go on a hike and kind of just be with your thoughts. Also, Runyon in particular offers some pretty great sound bites to overhear (think typical L.A. stuff so everyone’s talking about their manager or money or something they’re producing).

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

I think everything inspires me? Is that a cop out? Sort of. But I think it’s true. I’m taking a sketch writing class right now so I have all these different kinds of writing I’m working on every week and I think it helps to pull from everywhere.

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In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

“Adult Childlike Tendencies” is the best way to describe me and how I think. Also could be a cool emo band name, or something. Or maybe just the name of a hip new disorder which they’ll hopefully first diagnose in me.

I think sometimes because of how I dress myself or what things I like people think that I’m immature but aside from ridiculous things I laugh at like signs for “Bonerville” I’m still a 29-year-old adult woman. Also I’m a Virgo so I’m very organized which helps in being an “adult.”

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

It involves a lot of staring into space and singing along to music and posting pictures to Instagram and tweeting and then some writing. When I was writing the first TV pilot I took a shot at I would stare at the computer for hours, tweeting and taking selfies and then something would happen and I’d write for an hour. And then I’d go back to staring into space. It helps that I love To Do lists and think the greatest feeling in the world is checking something off. So if I write down “finish Act 1” I will make sure to do it. It just might take a lot of staring into space and watching episodes of “Wings” on Netflix.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

That’s a great question! I think I’m most proud that I finished a TV pilot alone. Like, I came up with a thought (somehow) and sat down and just from within myself made it happen. Like no one was telling me, “gee Erin you should write this” I had to come up with the motivation myself and it’s something I struggled with and why I didn’t start writing publicly for a long time. But I also really like this article I wrote for Cracked called “7 Saved By the Bell Plots That Prove Zack is a Sociopath.” It was really fun to be that – pardon the phrase – snarky. While also proving that Zack Morris is a sociopath.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Lake Bell. I saw In A World and just was like, god, she’s amazing. There was a Q&A after the screening with her and she just seemed so genuine and so smart. And aside from Children’s Hospital I only knew her from It’s Complicated before that so I didn’t know much of anything about her. And to be able to write and star in and direct this movie that I thought was so great, I just was so in awe of her. And she talked about how you know, she was acting, so it wasn’t like she NEEDED to write this or anyone was like GIVE ME THIS SCRIPT. It was just a story she wanted to tell and something she wanted to create and like, she’s my number 1 Person I Am in Awe of and Want to Be Friends With right now.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am more a morning person than anything else but I usually get most done from like, 5pm-8pm, if that makes sense (spoiler alert, it makes no sense). I drag my feet sometimes on things I know I could finish quickly so if it gets to that time of day I just tell myself, “write this, then you can have dinner.” And that usually does the trick.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Mostly watch TV, go to the movies. I notice I start getting a little antsy if I don’t go to the movies frequently enough. I need that time where you silence your phone and just sit back and go to another place. It’s great as a stress-reducer because even if the movie is stressful, it’s not about you. It’s not your life. It’s the best escape I have. I also just like doing goofball things with my friends like Country & Western night roller skating or sitting at a bar talking. Also, if there were costume parties I could go to all the time I would be ecstatic. But broke. Also I like to cross-stitch. It’s organized and pretty and I find it disgustingly soothing.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

I’m reading “How to Be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran right now and am obsessing over it. I love it so much. I know everyone read “Gone Girl” a couple summers ago but you should also read Gillian Flynn’s other books “Dark Places” and “Sharp Objects.” So amazing. I also just read two Jonathan Ames books “I Love You More Than You Know” and “What’s Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer.” Reading about his inner thoughts is fascinating and disturbing. Oh and also “Trinkets” by Kirsten Smith is really great.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

I feel like my biggest problem was feeling somewhere inside me that I wanted to write but not doing it. Everything kind of snowballs so if you can make yourself try something you think you want to try you’ll get into the thing you want to do. If you want to write. Write. I mean, I know that’s so cliché but just recently I told someone to just start with journal entries and see how those go. I’m the idiot who knew I wanted to write but was too nervous about trying it to do anything about it until I just had to. So don’t be that idiot.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

I’m going to take something Susie Essman said to my brother’s college graduating class at SUNY Purchase in 2011 for this, “Be bold and be kind and you’ll be okay.”

Creative Ladies: Anne T. Donahue

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Anne T. Donahue does so much cool stuff on a regular basis that I kind of don’t know how she does it (not the Sarah Jessica Parker movie, you guys…there’s a time and a place and neither is now). Not only does she write for HelloGiggles (you’ve probably read her hilarious Old Lady Movie Night column), but she blogs, podcasts, and has a web series. Even though she’s so busy, she still took time to answer my nosy questions about her creative process, her favorite books, and the value of going to the movies by yourself. You can find Anne on Tumblr, Instagram, her podcast Bevs with Anne, and on Twitter @annetdonahue.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I think my main creative gig is “do as much as I can, all the time, always,” and is exactly as all over the place as I just made it sound. I write 90% time, but I also now podcast three times a week, and Women At Work is picking up, and the type of writing I do changes a lot — which is the best. As soon as something becomes routine, I kind of shut down, which is exactly why I didn’t do very well in academic environments and am unemployable in any other industry.

As for my normal working day, I usually get up, check my phone for five minutes to an hour, run out for coffee in my pyjamas like a fancy lady, then write something. And by “write something” I mean “eventually write something after scrolling through Tumblr and Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest for long enough to stress me out about everything I’ve just put off doing.” And then I’m good to go.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

Easy: thrift shopping, antiquing, reading, and going to the movies by myself. LEAVE ME ALONE IF I’M AT THE MOVIES, EVERYONE. THAT IS MY TIME.

And does hanging out with friends count? Because I need them to be a functioning human.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Hard-working, kind people. Strong people, and people who use their talents for good as opposed to fuel their own egos. Stories of success after years chipping away at a huge goal — that’s another one. All of those are amazing, wonderful things to me, and they make me want to keep going (as opposed to getting whiny or cranky when something doesn’t work out right away).

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In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

This is the most terrifying question in the world. Hm. Creative aesthetic: eclectic, cozy, clean. I can’t do anything if where I’m working feels cold or clinical, or messy and unorganized.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

It involves all of those things! But especially candy eating, and actually no doodling. For the most part, I procrastinate until I have little to no time to get something done. Then I just sit down, shut up, and do it. I’ve been that way since I was a little kid, starting my essays the night before they were due an hour before my bedtime. So I work best under fake, self-inflicted mental duress. I guess that’s actually just called “stress.”
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What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m so proud of all of them. Not because I think I’m some amazing writer, but because I’m doing what I wanted to do: write. That’s still so insane to me.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

WELL moving to Toronto as a music journalist on borrowed money I couldn’t afford to pay back, then having to move back home when I switched to comedy/pop culture writing because I lost my apartment was a big life lesson I hope I don’t have to repeat again. But hitting bottom (and believe me — it was a year-long bottom) was oddly satisfying. That’s when you begin to build up, and then when you do, you apply those important lessons (ex. don’t burn bridges, don’t take out loans you can’t pay back, don’t live beyond your means, don’t get wrapped up in your own accomplishments/ego/life, don’t this, don’t that, etc. etc. etc.) and you grow, and you become a better writer because of that.

Also, you can turn into crying and drinking wine from the bottle in bed into comedy because otherwise oh my GOD, what a sad mental picture.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Luckily, we’re not at a loss for creative women, so that makes this question really hard to answer. I think: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Caitlin Moran … those are all women whose career trajectories I really admire. Also: Helen Mirren and Judi Dench because I have a heart and a soul. Day to day: my best friends. I don’t know how I tricked such talented, creative women to hang out with me, but I am in awe of them on a daily basis.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I want SO BADLY to be a morning person. I even set my alarm early so I can sit down and get to work like a normal working human. And some days it works! Like, on nights I have plans and I have to get work done in the morning, I will get work done in the morning. But today? I’ve gotten two things finished with three more to go, and honestly I am so excited to work late. (Also: I have to be because tomorrow I can’t work on anything.)

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Sometimes I work. Is that weird? Probably. But I’ll read to relax, then get really psyched about how good the writing is, or how funny the story is, or this or that, and be all, “OH I’LL WRITE A BLOG ABOUT THIS ONE TOPIC, THEN.”

As for the rest of the time: outings with friends, Netflix, and movies (again by myself LEAVE ME ALONE AT THE MOVIES, EVERYONE).

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Oh! I love this question. Right now I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s “Moranthology” and I laughed so hard in the first chapter I woke up my poor Mum. In addition to that: “How To Be A Woman” by Caitlin Moran, “Bossypants” by Tina Fey,” “I Don’t Care About Your Band” by Julie Klausner, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling, “Everything Is Perfect When Your’e A Liar” by Kelly Oxford, “I, Rhoda” by Valerie Harper and “Columbine” by Dave Cullen. (Which, I know, is a heavier read — but so important and so, so, so good.)

I like non-fiction. Right now I’m reading a book about an undercover agent who infiltrated the Hell’s Angels (“No Angel” by Jay Dobyns), and it’s great so far — especially if you like “Sons of Anarchy” which I do.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Don’t do it! NO, I’M KIDDING. I would never say that, because I actually really love what I do. But I will say this: be patient. Be super patient, and work super hard. Don’t get bitter, don’t get cynical, and don’t judge anyone unless they’ve full-out wronged you (because then, yes, they are probably garbage people). But even then, just ignore them. Don’t dwell on the negative, because when you find yourself in the industry, there will be a lot of people who are very negative and want to bring other, more positive people down with them. Don’t let them because it will KILL YOU creatively.

Just work the hardest, be kind and compassionate, and believe you deserve to be there. It’ll work out, don’t panic. It’ll be fine.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Work hard and be kind. (Or more directly: don’t be an asshole.)

Creative Ladies: Sarah Neal

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Sarah Neal is a designer, a fellow HelloGiggles writer, and an all-around awesome person. She was nice enough to talk to me about her creative process, her biggest accomplishments, and Law & Order (seriously, you guys, she’s not the first Creative Lady to express a love of Law & Order…it must help the creative process). You can find Sarah on Twitter.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I’m a creative manager (hard-working graphic designer) by career, and a freelance writer for some pretty amazing blogs in my spare time: Hello Giggles, The Conversation, and The Women Take Over.
I’m a print designer, so I spend the weekdays creating ads, posters, brochures, etc. I basically help make things look pretty for clients.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Design wise, I try to slow down and really observe what’s around me. We’re usually in such a hurry, or distracted by our smartphones, we often miss the small morsels of beautiful things around us. Different things inspire each of us, but they’re present if we’ll stop to see and listen.
For my writing, past experiences are a huge influence–topics that resonate with the heart are the easiest to write about. However, if I’m assigned a subject I’m not familiar with, I do as much research as possible and find that note, that thread, that I can connect with, and start from there. It’s important to be passionate about your subject.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Keep it simple.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

In both design and writing, before I even touch my keyboard, I reach for pen and paper.
There’s something special and venerable about laying down dark ink on a clean, unlined page. I like scribbling out bad ideas and drawing circles around the good ones. Usually, it’s that tactile process that gets the ideas moving.
If I hit a creative block, which everyone does at some point, I stop…and dance. The crazier the song, the better. Macklemore, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Timberlake are some of my favorites to shake out the frustrations. I’m not afraid to admit it! Okay, maybe a little…

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m currently working on an art exhibit dedicated to my grandmother and her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I have a large gallery space to fill with photographs, installation pieces, etc. within the next year. My primary goal is to educate others in the community about the disease, which still has a lot of misconceptions. I hope my Gram would be proud.

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Also, my very first article for Hello Giggles is really special to me. It was written about my adoption and received so many amazing responses from the readers, I’m still blown away by their love and support. It was an incredible experience. Connecting with the readers is one of my favorite things about blogging.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

One of the biggest creative challenges as a writer is to get out of your own head and relate to your audience. It’s easy to throw out a bunch of cold facts, figures, and fancy words, but you’ll can lose a lot of readers with this approach. People know when there’s a “Hey, guys! Look at what I know!” tone to an article.
Important lessons I’ve learned: Keep sentence length to a minimum. Don’t over explain/examine a subject, because you’re underestimating the intelligence of your audience.
As a designer, keeping your ideas and style fresh can be challenging. It’s easy to cling to what’s familiar or has worked in the past. You have to forge ahead and explore new and unfamiliar avenues. Always.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

I admire Anna Wintour, and that’s not just because she has a British accent and her last name is spelled pretentiously (but it does put her over the top).
There’s a genteel and timeless sense about her, and she isn’t afraid of being candid despite her seemingly tough exterior. She’s self-assured and demands quality in herself and others. Plus, she has an impeccable sense of fashion.
I also love Tavi Gevinson. I’ve followed Rookie Mag for several years, and never cease to be impressed by Tavi’s fresh and untamed perspective on the world. Love her.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Total, 100% night owl. I’m usually at the top of my game at 1 a.m.
You have to use a spatula to scrape me out of bed in the mornings, or lure me out with donuts like a bear coming out of hibernation.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

I go to as many concerts my heart can handle. I’m fortunate to live in a city that has some incredible venues, so there’s always a great band touring through my town.
Additionally, I love watching marathon episodes of Law & Order: SVU. There’s something very relaxing about the combination of Ice-T and Richard Belzer’s Transition® lenses.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Writers: Read as much as possible, including books written by classic authors such as Brontë and Austen. Style guide books are great, but to be a better writer, read great writing. Also, check out Rolling Stone’s long reads. They have incredible journalists who can describe Bob Dylan smoking a cigarette and make it read like poetry.
For writers and designers, read Ogilvy On Advertising. David Ogilvy was one of the greatest in the advertising business, and his advice on writing and design are timeless. Your writing, your art—it really boils down to “selling” an idea to your audience and you must do it effectively.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Don’t get offended when someone gives you advice.
Take your work very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
Be good to yourself. No one likes a martyr.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Leave the world a better place than when you found it.

Creative Ladies: Stephanie Spitler

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Stephanie is a fellow HelloGiggles writer, so I’m super-excited to feature her here in Creative Ladies! She works at a greeting card company, which is possibly the coolest job ever. She talked to me about travelling, books, and the awesomeness of Jo March. You can read Stephanie’s travel column on HelloGiggles or follow her on Twitter @StephSpitler.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I actually have a really cool day job. I’m an editor at a greeting card company (how many people can say that, right?!). It’s hard to describe exactly what I do, since it’s a little bit of everything: editing/writing/research/analysis. I get to have fun meetings where we talk about feelings and relationships. My job comes down to figuring out what people want to say to each other, and the best way to say it. Also, I get paid to have opinions about things like cartoon hedgehogs and glitter.

In addition to my day job, I’m also a freelance writer. I write a travel column for HelloGiggles, and I have some other exciting freelance opportunities on the horizon. And, on the days when I win my battle with procrastination, I work on fiction. So my nights are where I get to concentrate on writing purely for fun, about anything I want.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

Big surprise here: I love to read. I’ve always been a big reader, and my favorite escape is to snuggle into a good book. Great books are like my crack; I’m always looking for my next fix (so if there’s a great book I should be reading, please let me know).

I also taught myself how to knit, and I’m almost finished with my first (adult-sized) sweater. Sure, it may have taken two years, but it’s not a race! I also have a sewing machine that I don’t use enough, and I had a brief flirtation with jewelry making.

But my ultimate hobby/passion is traveling. I’ve been to 14 countries, studied abroad in London, and backpacked across Europe, but there’s still so much I want to see and do. And let me tell you, I have some great stories from my travels. Ask me why Shania Twain songs remind me of my overnight bus ride to Scotland, or about my favorite cheese market in the Netherlands (one word: Alkmaar).

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

My biggest inspiration is other people; specifically, other people’s words. I love quotes; famous or not, it doesn’t matter. Inspiring quotes remind me that other people have been where I am, and have made it to where I want to go. And their eloquence gives me hope and makes me strive to make my own writing better.

I also love photographs. There’s one picture I love to look at when I’m trying to get into my “writing head space.” It was taken in Colorado last year, in the Rocky Mountains, and it was the most peaceful spot. I was on top of a mountain, and the wind sounded like waves crashing on a beach. But other than the wind, it was completely silent. Looking at that picture is like meditating for me.

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In three words, describe your creative aesthetic.

Funny Casual Adventurousness

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

It involves all three! Actually, the “staring into space” part is essential for me. I tend to start out big and scattered, and slowly focus in on what’s working. So I’ll have a germ of an idea and I’ll write it down. Then I’ll begin writing longer pieces, off of that one little idea. I might start with character sketches or descriptions of the setting as I see it. I’ll just write whatever I feel like. And then I start narrowing down ideas and gaining a sharper focus, seeing where the real meat of the piece is. Which character intrigues me the most? What is the most interesting part of the story?

Basically, my process consists of lots of half-formed sentences and scribbled thoughts and notes that no one else would be able to understand. But (slowly) all of those random pieces start to fit together and lead me where I need to go.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m proud of writing the introduction to “Dream Symbols,” a book published by Running Press back when I was an intern there. I’m also proud of the writing jobs I’ve gotten (whether they were paid or unpaid, for a major website or a friend’s blog). I’m proud of those because I put myself out there and went for it, and (sometimes) got it.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m just happier when I’m writing. It seems like a “duh” thing to say, and it’s embarrassing to admit, but it took me a long time to come to that realization. My degree is in writing, but once college was over I got swept away in other things. Jobs, relationships, and trying to figure out how to be a responsible adult didn’t leave a lot of time for writing. It seemed like my writing time was always the first thing I’d let slide. I’m still not perfect, and it’s a struggle when I just want to go to sleep early, or watch a Law and Order marathon, but I know that making the effort makes me happier in the long run.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Jo March, from Little Women. I love her single-minded pursuit of her objective. She wanted to be a writer, and she took risks and made it happen. Everything else came second to her, and as a people-pleaser, it’s an important lesson for me to remember: you have to do what’s right for YOU.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Since I’m secretly an 85-year-old woman, I’m definitely NOT a night owl. I find the best time for me to write is in the early morning. On the weekends, I’ll get up and start writing even before I’m fully awake. Through the week, I’ll try to write on my lunch break or after dinner. But I find that after 10 pm, I’m useless.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

I like to get outside. I like to hike and run and just walk in the woods or by the water. Getting outside and moving my body around, when I’m stationary for so much of the day, helps me wake up my brain and get my blood flowing again.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

So. Many. Books! I am going to try to edit myself here, instead of listing every book I love because that would take up the entire Internet. Obviously, I love books about writing, but I’m going to focus on stories. Please feel free to tweet at me if you want to talk about books, or have any recommendations for me! Here goes:

Fiction:
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver: I find myself thinking of this book a lot, and I finished it months ago. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking meditation on life and the effect one person has on everyone around them.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton: Because I love English country houses and family secrets. What more could you want in a book? This is the perfect cool-autumn-day-curl-up-in-a-blanket-with-some-tea kind of story.

All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury: This short story haunts me. I still get choked up/angry/sad when I think of it, and if that’s not the mark of a great story then I don’t know what is. I first read it in elementary school, and I’ve re-read it so many times since then. It’s still one of my favorite stories (short or otherwise) ever.

Anything by Dorothy Parker: “Anything” is not a title. Just find something with Dorothy Parker as the author and read it. You won’t be sorry.

Non-Fiction:
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf: This should be required reading for every Creative Lady. We’ve come a long way, but the issues she writes about still affect us today, so we’re not there yet.

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Hands down, she’s my favorite poet. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. And yes, I admit that I first read her work when “Dirge Without Music” was in a Sweet Valley High book (the one where Regina dies). So thank you, Francine Pascal.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Read and write. It’s that simple. Read everything: blogs and books and newspaper articles, because you never know where your next idea will come from.

Also, your time is precious so use it wisely. I used to be one of those people who HAD to finish a book once they’d started it. But I’ve gotten over that. Life is too short (and there are too many fantastic books) to read something you don’t absolutely love.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Just keep trying.

(Both photos by Jason Steele)

What It’s Really Like to be a Book Blogger

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So this might be a little too “inside baseball” (I don’t know what that phrase means) and maybe none of you actually care what it’s like to be a book blogger. But I was always curious about this before I started writing about books, so here it is. My gift to you. Sorry I didn’t wrap it, and also sorry it’s just a blog post instead of that Sur La Table giftcard you asked for.

If you don’t know, I write a weekly book column for HelloGiggles called Young Adult Education. I don’t really consider myself a book reviewer, because I only write about books that I like. My column runs once a week, and honestly I’m not going to waste my limited time and space talking about junk I don’t absolutely love. So I like to call myself a book recommender. Here’s what my book recommending duties are really like:

1. I get free books!
This is one of the most exciting parts of writing about books online. People send me books! Like, several books a week, usually! This is awesome. It’s great to come home to a package full of BOOKS. I usually don’t know they’re coming, which makes it even more exciting. But since I didn’t request these books, that leads to my next point…

2. I often don’t like or want to read these books.
I only write about YA for HelloGiggles, but people sometimes send me things that are not YA. This is nice, I guess, but it’s sort of a waste of everyone’s time and money. And even though anyone who’s taken even a quick glance at my column can see the types of books I write about (usually contemporary YA, often romances), I get tons of paranormal, dystopian, fantasy books. I have absolutely nothing against these books, and I’m sure some of them are great! But I have limited time, in my life and in my column, and that’s not what I choose to read most of the time. I try to vary what I read, so every once in awhile I’ll get the chance to check out one of these books, but usually? No. It’s not gonna happen. And sometimes people send me two copies of the same book, which really bums me out. Wasted paper! Wasted time! Wasted money! Since these books are often ARCs (advance review copies, which are books sent out to reviewers before the ACTUAL books are printed), I can’t resell them or even really give them to too many people. Which just leads to…

3. I feel guilty a lot.
I just do. I know I only have so much time in each day, and it’s not like I’m even getting paid for this, but I still feel bad when I get a book I don’t read.

4. I get to talk to authors!
If you’d told elementary school me that Sharon Creech would one day leave a comment on my blog, I would’ve freaked out. I mean, I still freaked out when that happened. Typically, when I write about someone’s book, I share the link on Twitter so they can see it. Most people love compliments, and since I only say good things, I don’t feel weird about sharing my articles with the writers. And guess what? They’re usually nice and friendly! I think this might be unique to the YA community, though. I’m pretty sure Jonathan Franzen would not be as friendly if you reached out to him.

5. I get an inside look at how books are marketed.
Okay, you can call me naive, but I never understood how bookstore placement worked. Like, I thought the books that are featured in the Barnes and Noble email newsletter were just there because someone at Barnes and Noble liked them. And I thought books were just on display at bookstores because they were popular. I didn’t realize that everything in the book industry is ruled by marketing (and money). Which is fine! I’m not saying that’s wrong. Well, okay, I do think that in an ideal world we’d just live in a readers’ paradise where staff recommendations are worth their weight in gold. But I get that publishing is a business, and it’s run like one. I will say, though, that I’m instantly suspicious of and turned off by any book with a huge publicity campaign. For example, when I heard about The Fifth Wave and it was clear that it was being pushed hard, I did not want to read it. But then I did read it, and I loved it, so I try not to hold publicity against a book. I always want to root for the underdog, though. I can’t help it.

6. I feel a lot of responsibility.
I take my book-recommending duties pretty seriously. I love knowing that sometimes people pick up books because they trust my opinion, and I don’t want to steer them wrong! But even more than that, I really want to highlight books that might go unnoticed. I do feel responsibility to use what little influence I have to showcase really stellar books and shine some light on great authors.

7. I have no idea if I’m reaching anyone sometimes.
One in awhile, I’ll get an email or a tweet from a reader who lets me know she read and loved something I’ve recommended, or sometimes a reader will just say they like my column. This is so great, and it makes me feel awesome. But most of the time? Insert that cricket sound effect that plays for comedic effect when no one’s paying attention. Basically, I have no idea if I’m just writing for my own enjoyment half the time. Which is fine, because I totally would write for my own enjoyment even if no one was reading! But I like to know I’m reaching people.

8. Interacting with readers is the best.
The absolutely best part of writing about books for HelloGiggles is interacting with the cool girls and women who read the site. And while I definitely love talking to women my age who read YA, it means so much to hear from a girl who’s actually in high school or just starting college. I love to think that some of these books might help them through rough stuff, or just make their days better. That’s the experience I’ve had with a lot of YA, and I want to share that with as many girls as I can.

I’m sure other, more prolific/serious book bloggers have significantly different experiences, but that’s mine! If you have any questions, want to talk books, or have a book you’d like me to write about, I’m all ears (not literally…that would be weird). Leave a comment or email me at welcometoladyville@gmail.com.

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